Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter speaks to the media in the form of a press conference after every game just as most managers do. NFL coaches are pretty legendary for their press conferences, as are college basketball coaches at times. I suppose that there’s really no better way for coaches to give their view on games, players, in-game decisions, etc. And for the record, let me state that I think press conferences are a good thing. Not only does it give the coach a voice, but it allows members of the media to do their jobs. However just to play devil’s advocate…is this always a good thing?
In listening to Washington Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan’s press conference after the Redskins’ loss in the NFL playoffs to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, I heard a reporter as something to the effect of “…Mike, what were you thinking when Robert (Griffin III) was laying in the ground?” I suppose I can understand why some coaches in some sports come across as jerks at times if they have to deal with questions like that. What’s he supposed to say? I also recall a few years ago when Connecticut head basketball coach Jim Calhoun was asked by a freelance reporter whether he intended to give part of his salary back to the state of Connecticut to help atone for the state’s budget shortfall. Shanahan actually seemed to deal with his dumb question as well as he could. Calhoun’s attitude seemed to be “a dumb question calls for a dumb answer,” as he popped off at the reporter.
This isn’t the only issue that comes with press conferences. Most of these coaches give their pressers in the immediate aftermath of a game. Think of how emotional that most fans get about games, win or lose. Coaches can get that way even more so, given that they’re the leaders of their teams. So after a tough loss is it really fair to ask a coach to speak to the media, and to do so in a civil manner (given that the media might well be second guessing his decision-making in the game)? Let’s take that a step further; if the game itself had just been decided by a close call that went the other way, what if the coach feels his team got screwed? 15-20 minutes after the game ended he’s still probably pretty wound up in a sense. Perhaps as a result he makes mention of his disdain towards the official’s call during his press conference. Guess what?…he’s going to get a fine from the league.
People will argue that coaches simply need to control themselves and watch what they say in order to avoid the above-mentioned scenario. However that’s easier said than done. Again, I’m not suggesting that coaches shouldn’t speak to the media or that they shouldn’t have to field questions. However perhaps it’s a bit slanted against the coach if he has to do it in the immediate aftermath of a game. Would the NFL media not be satisfied enough if the head coach conducted his press conference the day after the game at the team’s practice facility? In baseball this would work even better given that you’re playing in essence every day. Managers normally speak to the media before games anyways…why not go over the previous day’s game at that time also? At the very least it would give the coach time to cool off from the emotional high or low from the previous day and he could present more thought-out analysis.
Ultimately nothing is going to change; coaches will still have to give their post-game press conferences regardless of what anyone says. Fans and media alike won’t allow it to be any other way. But again, sometimes I wonder if that’s exactly fair to the coach.